Pilanesberg National Park
When to go to Pilanesberg National Park...
When to go:
In short the best is to go out of school holiday in midweek, but totally detailed below. Like good restaurant service that knows when not to bother you, It's easier to answer when NOT to go: of course you can get an awesome sighting during peak dates, but in general the crowds scare off the scarce and rarely seen animals with ignorant and obnoxious behaviour.
Pilanesberg has become incredibly popular, mainly thanks to the awesome sightings seen, but also as it is closer than Kruger, and in general far more affordable. You can also reach Pilanesberg as a day visitor, and that is why though only 3% the size of Kruger, officially PB gets 43% of Krugers' yearly visitors. I believe though that the visitor number is flawed though - day visitors, Lodge and Sun City game drives are probably counted repeatly for every drive or consecutive day they enter. And as there are more roads per sq km ( 206 in 570 sqkm) than in Kruger 2 300 km in 20 000 sqkm, the traffic gets split as well - relatively nearly 4x more roads in Pilanesberg.
The worst day to go is a Saturday on a school holiday. So 2nd will be a Sunday on a school holiday. On par of course a Saturday on a long weekend, followed by the 1st day & then the last day of.... this is actually worse than school holidays. Then School holidays, Easter weekend, December is the 2nd worst, followed by July and then September. The only advantage you have with 100's of people in the Park is that someone is bound to see something, so you can just make a bee line for the traffic. Quality sightings are pretty rare though, as the "I just love the sound of my diesel engine" attitude rules in peak times.
Mo - Th is better than Fridays but Fridays are still great, it only gets busier after 2pm when the weekenders arrive. Weekenders are known to come test their 4x4's at max speed making lots of dust! On arrival some of them race through the Park to see what they have missed. They tend to endanger your life and bugger up your sightings, specifically iro their noisy diesel engines that they just don't switch off. Most South African viewers are totally uneducated, and of course they always know better. So you will be enjoying the sound of rhino's or ellies right next to you munching away, and they will come and park right next to you making an incredible racket, totally oblivious. Oblivious to the fact that a car key can be used to turn an engine off as well. All anybody unsure have to do, is to look at what the Lodge & Resort vehicles do at a sighting. They switch off at a sighting...so maybe they know what they are doing.
Avoid the dates below if you can:
2016 school calendar
Provinces: Eastern Cape, Free State, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, North West, Northern Cape and Western Cape. All nine provinces have the same school calendar for 2016.
1 - (11) 13 Jan - 18 March
2 - 5 April - 24 June
3 - 18 Jul - 30 Sept
4 - 10 Oct - 7 (9) Dec
- Dates and days in brackets ( ) are applicable to educators
Public and school holidays 2016
1 January New Year's Day
21 March Human Rights Day
25 March Good Friday
28 March Family Day
27 April Freedom Day
1 May Workers Day
2 May Public holiday
16 June Youth Day
17 June School holiday
8 August School holiday
9 August Women's Day
24 September Heritage Day
16 December Day of Reconciliation
25 December Christmas Day
26 December Day of Goodwill
Source: National Education Policy Act: 2016 school calendar for public schools [PDF]
The Department of Basic Education has published the school calendar for 2017.
All nine provinces have the same school calendar for 2017.
1 - (9) 11 Jan - 31 March
2 - 18 April - 30 June
3 - 24 July - 29 September
4 - 9 Oct - 6 (8) Dec
- Dates and days in brackets ( ) are applicable to educators
Public and School Holidays 2017
1 January: New Years Day
20 March: School holiday
21 March: Human Rights Day
14 April: Good Friday
17 April: Family Day
27 April: Freedom Day
28 April: School holiday
1 May: Workers Day
16 June: Youth Day
9 August: National Womens Day
24 September: Heritage Day
16 December: Day of Reconciliation
25 December: Christmas Day
26 December: Day of Goodwill
Source: National Education Policy Act: 2017 school calendar for public schools [PDF]
So when to go???
My best times yearly was 2004 Aug - Dec; 2005 Sept - Dec; 2006 July - Oct; 2007 March till Dec, 2008 June - Dec, 2009 Aug - Nov, 2010 right through, and the whole 2011 & 2012, 2013 and then 2014 & 2015 has just been awesome. 2015 ended with the rain still staying away, and extreme heat the last 3 months. The sightings were however was unrivalled in 2015, as anyone that visited experienced. 2016 have been good so far, but definitely less numbers due to the tough 2015, and expected tough 2016.
Certain times of the year is definitely better. I prefer late winter/spring/early summer to late summer/autumn. There is less water and less bush around so in general you see animals easier, and also near water holes. Nutrition in the grass & bush is also less so animals have to feed longer in winter. As survival is more important they pay less attention to traffic. Last year during the drought conditions we stopped 1 m from 2 zebra - they didn't move as they needed to conserve energy. This can never happen in normal times. The downside is that during winter parts of the park gets burned and it looks quite unappealing. This is unfortunately necessary - veld management and all. In winter it is also easier to spot lions. So in general in mid July to mid Oct is an excellent time. BUT one of the rules is never to generalize. I 've seen absolute amazing sightings in the middle of summer as well. The 2 baby elephants born I saw 30 Nov 04 (3,5 hours old) and 30 Dec 04 (40 min old). I also saw elephant swimming and having a ball numerous times in the heat of the season, actually from Oct to Jan. Then lots of youngsters around in Nov and Dec. And the rutting season from late Feb is also special. It does however get difficult from Jan to see into the dense bush. If you have a choice go mid July to end Dec. Your attitude should however be to make the best of whatever the situation at the time of your going is; realizing that some animals may not be seen. Also assuming that you'll see the big 5 is stupid. They don't live in the wild to accommodate you! And there are so many smaller and exciting viewings....
Now if you want to go yourself, do exactly the opposite. Go on weekends and school holidays when there are 400 cars in the park at a time. It will still be less crowded than Kruger. Someone is bound to see something and you'll just have to look where the cars gather.
A last comment. If it was me on holiday and I have 3 weeks or so and I want to see the absolute most this country can offer, I will come in October. Pretoria has Jacarandas blooming, the whales are active in Hermanus, even Kruger is stunning. It's not too hot yet and there are very few tourists so finding accommodation is easy!
Hope this has been of help.
Pilanesberg as never seen before. After a serious drought Pilanesberg recorded 94 mm in 24 hours.This pic was taken 22 Jan 04.
Pilanesberg Dawn to Dusk Safaris from Johannesburg, Pretoria, Pilanesberg and Sun City
Picture Gallery 2011 & after
Picture Gallery 2010
Picture Gallery 2009
Picture Gallery 2008
Picture Gallery 2007
Picture Gallery 2006
Picture Gallery 2005
Picture Gallery 2004
It's alphabetical - so save us both time.... and if not on here I will put it up!
Accommodation in the Park only: Staying Friday or Saturday you have to pay for 2 nights min.
Accommodation in and around Sun City. Staying Friday or Saturday you have to pay for 2 nights min.
Accommodation Specials at Pilanesberg
Accommodation at Sun City Vacation Club
Airport at Pilanesberg
Animal studies in Pilanesberg
Bakubung Bush Lodge
Balloon Safaris: In Pilanesberg National Park - R4 250pp - 1 hour, minimum 4 pax!
Black Rhino Game Lodge
Buffalo in the Park
Camping - book direct at 014 555 1000, don't be surprised if you hold 15 minutes and then get cut off.
Cancellation Terms and Conditions
Commission offered to booking agents
Condition of the Veld
Dangers in Pilanesberg
Disclosures: About vehicles used for Pilanesberg and other
Directions - see map
Elephant Back safaris in Pilanesberg.
Entrance fee - see gate times
Etiquette in Game Parks like Pilanesberg for self drives
Friends of Pilanesberg Society - Volunteers helping to maintain the Park.
Gate Times for Pilanesberg National Park
Geology of Pilanesberg National Park
Highlights seen in Pilanesberg the last 2 years:
Don't expect something like this or the animals to stand next to the road waiting. It's not a Zoo!
History of Pilanesberg National Park
Idiot Gallery - Stunts pulled in Pilanesberg National Park by the mentally challenged. Other tour operators are welcome to contribute - I will give you recognition except if you don't want it!
Ivory Tree Game Lodge
Kids on Safari. In Pilanesberg or other parks
Kwa Maritane Bush Lodge
Map and directions to Pilanesberg
Other Parks near Pilanesberg
Other Tour Operators doing Pilanesberg
Packages to Lodges
Picture Gallery - taken by us over the last 8 years in Pilanesberg.
Pilanesberg National Park vs Kruger National Park.
Reading - other re Pilanesberg.
Safety in Pilanesberg
Shepherd's Tree Game Lodge
Testimonials from clients we have taken to Pilanesberg
Things to do in and around Pilanesberg
Transfers only to Pilanesberg and Sun City - one way: charged per vehicle:
Tshukudu Bush Lodge
Veld Condition in the Park
Weather and Climate for Pilanesberg area
What can you hope to see in Pilanesberg?
When to go to Pilanesberg: best time etc
806 Unit 2, Mogwase, Pilanesberg, Office - Please mail only
PO Box 250 Sun City, 0316 - Updated April 2016
All Pilanesberg queries - firstname.lastname@example.org